A roadblock established pursuant to a written directive of the County Sheriff for the purpose of detecting and deterring driving while intoxicated or while impaired, and as to which operating personnel are prohibited from administering sobriety tests unless they observe listed criteria, indicative of intoxication, which give substantial cause to believe that the operator is intoxicated, is constitutionally permissible, notwithstanding that the location of the roadblock is moved several times during the three- to four-hour period of operation, and notwithstanding that legislative initiatives have also played a part in reducing the incidence of driving while intoxicated in recent years. Defendant having pleaded guilty to driving while impaired after denial of his motion to suppress the evidence obtained at the roadblock, the order of the County Court, Genesee County, affirming his conviction, should, therefore, be affirmed.
At about 2:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 25, 1982, defendant, while driving on Route 5 in the Town of LeRoy, came up to a roadblock established pursuant to a directive of the Sheriff of Genesee County. He was directed to pull to
The roadblock had been established pursuant to a March 5, 1982 memorandum of the County Sheriff which called attention to the deaths, injuries and losses occasioned by intoxicated drivers and the need "to employ every lawful means to deter and apprehend the drunken driver." It quoted from the October, 1981 Report of the Governor's Alcohol and Highway Safety Task Force the value of "systematic traffic checkpoints at known DWI and high accident locations during peak hours", and the advisability that, "Such checks at specific sites * * * be of short duration, with an ability to move quickly to new sites to insure that the drinking driver will not be able to forecast checkpoint locations", and noted that the "greatest risk is on weekend late evening/early morning hours, when one in every ten vehicles or less contains an intoxicated driver." In succeeding detailed paragraphs it established procedures for site selection, lighting and signs; avoidance of discrimination by stopping all vehicles, or every second, third or fourth vehicle; location of screening areas off the highway to which vehicles would be directed; the nature of the inquiries to be made, with specific direction that unless the operator's appearance and demeanor gave cause to believe him or her intoxicated sobriety tests not be given. It listed the factors to be considered and stated that neither the odor of alcohol alone nor any one of the listed factors would suffice as a basis for sobriety tests. It also directed that checkpoint sites be prescreened and that from two to four locations be used during a four-hour period.
Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained at the roadblock. After a hearing the Town Justice denied the motion, finding that it had been operated in a uniform, nonarbitrary and nondiscriminatory manner. The County Court affirmed, finding the State's interest in curbing drunken drivers great and the operation of the roadblock sufficient to allay feelings of fright or annoyance and to circumscribe sufficiently the discretion of the personnel engaged in the operation. On appeal to this court defendant argues that deterrence is an improper purpose, that a temporary roadblock is constitutionally impermissible, and that it has not been shown that less intrusive means of enforcement would not be effective. We affirm.
There is, of course, no question that a roadblock or checkpoint stop is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment (People v John BB., 56 N.Y.2d 482, cert den 459 U.S. 1010; People v Ingle, 36 N.Y.2d 413; United States v Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 556; see Berkemer v McCarty, 468 US ___, 104 S.Ct. 3138, 3149;
The permissibility of a particular practice is a function of its "reasonableness," which is determined by balancing its intrusion on the Fourth Amendment interests of the individual involved against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests (People v John BB., supra, at p 487; United States v Villamonte-Marquez, 462 U.S. 579; Delaware v Prouse, supra, at p 657). Of importance in that analysis are the governmental interest involved and the effect of the procedure in relation to it, on the one hand, and, on the other, the degree of intrusion of the procedure on the individual subjected to it, measured in terms of both its subjective effect and the degree of discretion vested in the officials charged with carrying it out.
The importance of the governmental interest here involved is beyond question. "The carnage caused by drunk drivers is well documented and needs no detailed recitation here" (South Dakota v Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 558; see, also, Mackey v Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 17-18, n 9; Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, An Interim Report to the Nation ; Report of Governor's Alcohol and Highway Safety Task Force ; Drunk Driving Reform in New York State, 1980-1984, Report of the Subcommittee on Drunk Driving of the Assembly Transportation Committee; L 1981, ch 910, § 1 ["Because of the persistence of the problem, it is essential that the state take further steps to protect those who make use of roads from the needless deaths, injuries and property damage resulting from drunk driving"]; Ifft, Curbing the Drunk Driver Under the
Moreover, in light of the specific procedures devised and promulgated to law enforcement personnel by the head of their department, the Sheriff, and the way in which the particular roadblock was being operated when defendant was stopped, the courts below could properly conclude that it did not intrude to an impermissible degree upon the privacy of motorists approaching the checkpoint, that it was being maintained in accordance with a uniform procedure which afforded little discretion to operating personnel, and that adequate precautions as to safety, lighting and fair warning of the existence of the checkpoint were in operation (People v Peil, 122 Misc.2d 617; State v Deskins, 234 Kan. 529; Little v State, 300 Md. 485; State v Coccomo, 177 N.J.Super. 575; State v Shankle, 58 Or.App. 134; cf. People v Ingle, 36 N.Y.2d 413, supra; State ex rel. Ekstrom v Justice Ct., 136 Ariz. 1; People v Bartley, 125 Ill.App.3d 575; State v Hilleshiem, 291 N.W.2d 314 [Iowa]; Commonwealth v McGeoghegan, 389 Mass. 137; State v Olgaard, 248 N.W.2d 392 [SD]). The fact that the plan contemplated situations in which not every car would be stopped did not affect its validity in view of the specific nondiscriminatory pattern of selection it called for (People v Estrada, 68 Ill.App.3d 272, cert den 444 U.S. 968; State v Shankle, supra) and of the reasonableness of allowing some cars to pass when traffic became congested (United States v Prichard, 645 F.2d 854, 857; People v Lust, 119 Ill.App.3d 509).
Nor is the plan invalid because of its deterrent purpose, the shifting of checkpoints after short periods of time, or the question raised by defendant concerning its efficiency.
The value of roadblocks in decreasing drunk driving is attested by both the United States Department of Transportation and the Governor's Alcohol and Highway Safety Task Force. A 1983 paper on Safety Checkpoints For DWI Enforcement issued by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Alcohol Countermeasures emphasizes the importance of informing the public about DWI checkpoint operations as
Nor is constitutionality affected by the shifting and temporary nature of the checkpoints. The fact that the Supreme Court has approved permanent roadblocks but disapproved roving patrol stops is not determinative. What is critical is the intrusiveness of the checkpoint in relation to the governmental purpose involved. The subjective effect upon a vehicle driver approaching a roadblock is unrelated to whether it is permanent or was established but a few minutes before the driver approached it; in either instance his or her observation of it will be measured in minutes if not seconds. The likelihood of there being the kind of fright or annoyance that invalidates a random stop made by a roving patrol is obviated in the case of a temporary checkpoint by the visible signs of authority which the checkpoint entails — signs announcing the purpose, lighting, and identifiable police vehicles and the observable fact that there is a uniform system for stopping cars (United States v Hernandez, 739 F.2d 484; Little v State, supra). The only subjective difference between temporary and permanent checkpoints is that because its location is known in advance the latter can be avoided
Nor, finally, is there sufficient question about the productivity of DWI checkpoints to require invalidation of the procedure. The contrary argument is based on the effectiveness of the procedure as a means of apprehension and ignores entirely its deterrent effect.
For the foregoing reasons, the order of the County Court, Genesee County, should be affirmed.